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Name: Les
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Question:
I am trying to identify a snake It is about 12 inches long, oval head, mottled colorings with a gray body reddish brown bloches outlined in black on its back with a different pattern on its belly It was found swimming in the Mississippi on the surface of the water. It tried to strike when handled. Is this a water snake?



Replies:
Well, there are several kinds of snakes that swim. Most of them aren't venomous. You can find pictures of some of them at the web site http://gto.ncsa.uiuc.edu/pingleto/herps/colubrid5.html. HOwever, none of those really match the description you gave, "reddish brown bloches outlined in black." The closest picture of a water snake I could find with such features is the venomous cottonmouth, or water moccasin. These snakes are fairly aggressive and fearless, so they say. (I've never encountered one in the wild; I have encountered rattlesnakes, which are quite timid.) There are many pictures of cottonmouths at http://gto.ncsa.uiuc.edu/pingleto/herps/crotalinae.html. What you described sounds a little like the pictures of the juvenile, such as the one at http://gto.ncsa.uiuc.edu/pingleto/herps/images/snakes/juvmoc3.jpg.

Don't pester a cottonmouth!

Richard Barrans Jr., Ph.D.



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